So your child needs or has been receiving therapy and now a worldwide pandemic hits! You cannot take your child to their clinic and/or your therapist can no longer come to your home or your child’s school! Who would’ve thought! Who could ever believe in a matter of just a few months, things could change as dramatically as they have! Schools and stores closed, shopping for food standing 6 feet apart, and families being locked in their homes day after day with little idea when it will all end! This has been a time of fear and unknowing for everyone. A situation the vast majority of us has never experienced.
The little ones I work with are mostly unaware. They continue on as if little or nothing has changed in their world. Well, except perhaps seeing a voice and a zoom image rather than my face up close and personal! The older ones however seem confused, scattered, disoriented and sometimes scared at the sudden changes to their routine. No more catching the bus at 7:30, math at 10, lunch on the playground at noon, and return home by 4. Now, their life is little time outside and getting lectures and therapy through a computer screen.
As families struggle to deal with all that is happening with the pandemic therapists are struggling as well. Adjusting to providing therapy online has it’s own challenges! Safety, always being the number one priority, can be difficult when the therapist is not there in person. They are limited with many hands-on activities as a parent or caregiver is not trained. A parent won’t know how to appropriately set up an activity. They may have difficulties positioning a child so they don’t lose their balance or be confused where to place their hands on specific points on their child’s body to control their movements appropriately.
Other challenges can include a parent’s inability to understand and follow through with directions. The therapist may have difficulties explaining what exactly they want to happen during the activity or session. Besides trying to describe the methods and procedures to be used during the session, other challenges such as having limited or inadequate supplies in the home, being able to effectively view a child’s positioning online as well as buffering and computer issues are all new difficulties we are now struggling with.
From a parents point of view it can be quite difficult. Suddenly having to be the therapist is a daunting task! What may have seemed somewhat easy and straight forward while observing your therapist work with your child is now confusing and much more involved than one may have thought! Understanding body mechanics, wondering where to position the child or yourself in relation to your child, where to position your hands can make what looks like a very simple task much harder than one would think. Throw in your own daily life challenges of work, shopping for food with restrictions, trying to find activities for your child to occupy their time and maintaining your sanity while being locked up day in and day out can make anyone’s life feel quite crazy! So, what can you do?
Well, start with staying calm and realizing that things will get back to normal soon enough! If your child is old enough and able to understand, you should sit them down and discuss what’s going on, if you haven’t already. They may be confused, scared and unsure if this is how life will be for them. Tell them that things will get back to the way they were, but it will take some time. Provide them with structure and a daily routine. Just as they had to wake up, have meals and play time, and go to bed at a certain time, this should all be put back into place. Their homework schedule and therapeutic exercise program they might have had should be completed at the same times as well.
If your child is older and the change in structure is getting them frazzled, you can try meditation or yoga. Simple deep breathing exercises will calm them more than you think! Asking their teachers or therapists if they can schedule sessions/classes at a set time and day (if they haven’t already). Ask them to clearly lay out homework assignments and what’s expected of them each week.
As far as their occupational therapy and other related services, it’s important to try to continue with services to prevent regression! All that hard work your child may have done may be partially or completely lost if too much time is taken between sessions. Although teletherapy (online services) is not ideal, progress will still be made. Your therapist will focus on areas they are more easily able to address online instead of in person. They can and should provide you with a home program to focus on objectives and goals.
In this unreal and chaotic time we currently find ourselves, it’s important to look down the road and see the light at the end of the tunnel! Although Covid-19 has changed much in our world, providing structure and some of the norms your child recently had, back into their lives will go a long way to helping them cope and adjust. If you have chosen to delay services, you might want to rethink teletherapy. By providing this form of therapy, your child will likely not regress and continue to work towards their goals and objectives! Please stay safe and feel free to email or call if you have questions or are in need of occupational therapy services for your child!